I’m a longtime writer and editor who’s been on staff at a bunch of places including One Kings Lane, Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, and ISLANDS magazine, and written for a variety of others from AFAR to Cosmopolitan to Travel + Leisure. Now I’m heading up content and community at Spot, a new travel and local-finds company.
Where are you based and what’s the best thing about where you live?
I bounced around for several years from California to Florida to NYC to Buenos Aires, but now I’m based in San Francisco, just a couple hours north of Salinas, where I grew up.
I love how easy it is to take day or weekend trips from San Francisco. We live right in the city, but we leave nearly every weekend and I know that makes me sound like a bad urbanite, but there’s so much goodness nearby. You have the spiritual coast-meets-backcountry vibes of Big Sur; fresh oysters pulled from the bay in Tomales and Marshall; wine, hot springs, and funky diners in Napa and Sonoma; historic hotels and saloons in the former gold-mining towns of the Sierra foothills; and the totally under-appreciated gems of delta country.
Your favorite place in the whole wide world?
New Orleans takes it. At some point, I will move there. And I say this having only been once: last year for the first time. I’ve traveled a lot—around the world, and all over the U.S.—I’ve lived in a variety of places, and my family is from the south, so I’m pretty sure this isn’t a rookie, rose-colored-glasses pipe dream. The city felt like my soulmate. Like we were meant to be together.
I loved the mysticism and mystery, the grit, the adherence to tradition, the pomp and circumstance, the break-out parties, the soupy heat, the crazy old-lady vibes mixed with the emergent hipster/artisan contingent, and the overwhelming sense of community. There’s an old house waiting to be fixed up with my name on it somewhere in that city.
Who or what inspires you?
Anybody who’s struck out on their own and are doing what they love and making it happen, whether they’ve launched a consulting company, are hand-tooling a line of leather goods, or have flipped some old roadhouse into a hot-spot hotel. I’d like to think I have it in me.
How has travel changed you? What growth experiences have you learned from it?
There’s this Mark Twain quote that says something like travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. That resonates. Travel has taught me empathy like nothing else. All the best people that I know travel; even if they don’t have much money, they still get out there making do with what they have.
I love being surprised by the way things are done in other countries—our way is not always the best. And I love how travel slaps you in the face with the fact that people are just people, no matter where you (or they) are in the world. People who are trying to raise good children, wondering what they’re going to make for dinner that night, thinking about their lost love, reminding themselves about their mom’s birthday. This holds especially true in places I’ve deemed “exotic” in my mind for whatever reason. When I arrive, I realize, yet again, that the scenery might be more tropical or barren than I’m used to, but as for the people—we’re all exactly the same.
Where has travel taken you so far? Where to next?
I’ve been to around 40 countries I think. Everywhere from road-tripping Iceland’s Ring Road to being followed by kids, puppies, and grandmas around a tiny colonial village in the Philippines to drinking Pisco Sours in a docked supply-ship-turned-yacht-club on the island of Puerto Williams at the southernmost tip of South America—further south even than Tierra del Fuego. Next up we’re talking about a road-trip around the southwestern states of the U.S., or spending a couple weeks in Japan or Croatia. We have some deciding to do.
What makes you come alive?
Oh man, this is a hard one. I get little-kid excited by tons of random stuff: Biker bars (I swear those guys sniff out the coolest, quirkiest spots), taco trucks, all manner of thrift stores, flea markets, and antique shops, succulent farms, those modern-day general-store-style boutiques stocking small-batch stuff, anything that feels “magical” (a term I use frequently and loosely): lush, alfresco restaurants under strung lights, old buildings reclaimed by vines, ghost towns, tree-house hotels, secluded hot springs you have to hike in to…
What does being creative mean to you?
It’s all about your outlook—not your day job. Sometimes they line up, but not always. Anybody can approach the world with a curiosity and twinkle in their eye. My husband for example, is a corporate attorney. But he’s hilarious—his mind goes sideways where other peoples’ go straight—and he’s one of the best writers I know. A couple years ago for Christmas he asked for a miter saw (and I was like “Okayyyyy, good luck with that babe”) and he’s since taught himself cabinet making, and has made two insanely gorgeous built-ins for our house that are solid as can be and look better than the one we hired a longtime professional carpenter to make.
Your most rewarding accomplishments to date? Go on #girlboss, Tell us! ☺
Everything we’re doing at Spot—I’ve never built something from nothing before. Creating everything from scratch—from brand style guides to a blog to a PR strategy—is more challenging and rewarding than I’d ever imagined. Spot was featured as a Best New App in the App Store its first week out, so I guess we’re doing something right, but there’s still so much more to be done.
Aisle or window seat?
For shorter flights: window. For longer flights: aisle. Always. I was traumatized once on an overnight flight where I desperately had to go to the bathroom and was stuck by the window with two fast-asleep men between me and freedom.
What’s your best advice for aspiring travelers?
Go. Don’t let fear or excuses hold you back. Never, not once, have I regretted a trip. Ever.
Follow more of Kelly’s adventures on Instagram